Walking Guide

Why Go Organic?

A healthy diet requires more than simply cutting out junk food—it involves getting the most nutritional value out of every bite you take. It takes good food to build a fit body. But did you know that your food choices also have an impact on the environment? If you’d like both a healthy body and a healthy planet, consider going organic.

Definition of Organic
An organic product is raised, grown, and processed without the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, antibiotics or hormones. Only farmers who produce food according to USDA organic standards and become certified by an independent third-party accredited agent can label their product as "certified organic" (with the exception of very small farms with sales under $5000 annually). The term "conventional" describes non-organic farming practices.

The Benefits of Organic Food
According to a 2001 study, today’s conventionally grown fruits and vegetables have about half the vitamin content of their 1963 counterparts. Organically grown food, however, is more nutritious than food produced using synthetic chemicals, as shown by a study published in the Journal of Applied Nutrition in 1993. On average, organically grown food is 63 percent higher in calcium, 73 percent higher in iron and 118 percent higher in magnesium, while being 29 percent lower in mercury.

Besides potentially providing more nutrition per bite, organic food may also help you fight off disease. You may have heard of flavonoids, which plants produce in response to environmental stresses, such as competing plants or insects. Flavonoids have high levels of antioxidants, which serve as the plant’s natural defense and help us fight disease as well. Research suggests that pesticides and herbicides interfere with the production of these protective compounds.

According to the 2005 State of Science Review (SSR) by the Organic Center, antioxidant levels are about 30 percent higher in organic food than chemically-grown foods produced under the same conditions. Most antioxidants are found in the peels of fruits and vegetables, but many people cut away the peel of conventionally grown produce to reduce their exposure to pesticides. Since it is safer to eat the skin of an organic fruit or vegetable, you get the maximum amount of antioxidants from your produce when you buy organic.

Scientists now have a better understanding of how disease and environmental toxins are linked and have proven that exposure to chemical fertilizers and pesticides does impact our health. Some pesticides have been shown to disrupt the human endocrine system (which regulates our hormones), while others have been linked to breast cancer, uterine cancer and asthma.

The Importance of Healthy Soil
Farmers began using chemical fertilizers and pesticides around 50 years ago in order to boost crop yields. Over time, insects, weeds and plant diseases have developed resistance to these pesticides, which has prompted the development of stronger pesticides and the need for multiple applications during the growing cycle. Despite the tremendous increase in the use of pesticides since 1950, the percentage of crop volume lost to pests has remained about the same.

A study conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute shows that 40 percent of the world’s agricultural soil is seriously depleted due to erosion (a result of planting the same crop over and over again), nutrient depletion (due to the use of chemical fertilizers) and salinization (the build-up of salt in the soil due to excessive irrigation).

The good news is that organic farming methods, such as rotating crops, using compost or manure instead of chemical fertilizers, and careful water use can reverse this damage and rebuild healthy soil.

7 Reasons to buy Organic
When it comes to your health—and the planet's—here are the top seven reasons why you might want to purchase organic foods whenever possible:
  1. Protect the health of children. Children are exposed to four times the level of pesticides in food than adults. Pesticides affect children more profoundly due to their higher metabolisms and smaller body mass.
     
  2. Look after your own health. Several pesticides that are banned in the U.S. and Canada are used on foreign crops and shipped here for consumers to buy.
     
  3. Safeguard the health of farm workers. Studies have shown that conventional farmers have six times the cancer risk of non-farmers. Because fertilizers and chemicals are often distributed by air, farm workers can be exposed to large quantities of chemicals without protection.
     
  4. Preserve the soil. Over three billion tons of topsoil are lost each year in the United States and Canada due to erosion caused by conventional farming methods.
     
  5. Protect the water. Pesticides are known to contaminate groundwater, which affects the drinking water supply in most of the United States and Canada. If pesticide-contaminated water reaches lakes, rivers and other bodies of water, it allows the rapid growth of algae and suffocates the natural aquatic plants and animals.
     
  6. Conserve resources. Conventional farming uses a vast amount of petroleum-based herbicides to kill weeds, while organic farming uses labor-intensive practices such as weeding by hand.
     
  7. Fight global warming. Petroleum-based fertilizers give plants the nitrogen they need for rapid growth, but these nitrogen compounds can enter the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.
Thoroughly washing conventional produce and trimming away edible peels will help minimize any chemical residue while still retaining a high level of nutrients.  If organic foods don't fit into your budget or lifestyle, try not to worry. Most health authorities report that the health benefits that come from eating fruits and vegetables outweigh the concerns of pesticide use. Whether you select organic or conventionally grown produce, eating five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables each day is still the healthiest way to get the vitamins, minerals and fiber you need as a preventive health measure.
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Member Comments

GRANDMASUSAN13
Good info although some of the comments make me think twice about the research done. Report
Great article! Report
NJMSTAR
Having lived and worked in the agriculture industry my entire 60 plus years as well as having taken a 400 level college class in organic farming there are 2 pontis I would like to make about the "organic" label. First the "organic" label does not mean pesticide free. Organic pesticides are frequently used. Some of them actually have a higher toxicity rating than nonorganic pesticides. Many are used more frequently and at higher rates than nonorganic pesticides. Secondly, the biggest difference between organic and nonorganic farming is the amount of time spent filling out paper work to maintain the farms organic rating. Report
Great article! Report
Thank you Report
Thank you. Report
Thanks. Report
thank you Report
thanks Report
good article. I try to buy organic or grow organically but the dollar price of organic produce can be a deterrent. Report
ELRIDDICK
Thanks for sharing Report
LOVECORGIS
The article has a lot of misinformation. More nutrients is one. That study was poorly done and many have come out to prove it wrong. It is the same nutrient wise. Organic doesn't mean safe. Many organic methods of farming are very bad for the consumer and the environment. It is just a fancy label to get more money from those willing to pay. Report
Make it affordable and I will buy it. ROFL........ Report
Certain pesticides, like Sevin Dust, are more hazardous to the environment than the CO2 or Nitrogen, which is already abundant in our environment. Also, some fertilizer companies are already reducing the amount of Nitrogen in their composition because it evaporates very quickly. Are you aware that the earth's atmosphere is 78% Nitrogen making it the most abundant gas on our planet? Are you aware that CO2 is used by plants for photosynthesis!? Regardless, the best source to get the Nitrogen into the soil is by plant decomposition and tilling decaying plant material back into the earth. Additives and pesticides are very expensive and hurts the farmer's bottom line, so they actually use less than you think.

Also, the actual volume usage of pesticides on organic farms is not recorded by the government? Yes, they do use pesticides! Rotenone is a common pesticide used in organic farms which attacks the mitochondria of cells and it has been linked to Parkinson Disease!

Sevin Dust, as many other pesticides, is far more dangerous to our environment because it kills pollinating insects such as bees, and yet it is widely used by home owners. The bee population is quickly diminishing and in many cases, it is the home owners' fault!

Rather than writing my own article in this comment section... let me just say that I prefer purchasing local produce. As for my garden, I prefer natural methods of gardening, making my own compost (adding things like egg shells are great for adding calcium to tomato plants), and using beneficial insects such as lady bugs.

Always do your own research. I learned a lot from Virginia Tech Master Gardeners. Here is another place that you may want to start...

http://blogs.sc
ientificameri
can.com/scien
ce-sushi/2011
/07/18/mythbu
sting-101-org
anic-farming-
conventional-agriculture/
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We here in north Queensland have the wonderful access to the Farmers Market where there is a lot of locally grown foods, we, here at home grow a lot of our own veggies, our family combined share what we grow so a lot of what I consume is fresh. Report
Walking Guide

About The Author

Leanne Beattie
Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.
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